You will find useful tips and information for travelling around in Palestine in this blog. These are my experiences and thoughts that I would like to share with you as a local resident and a tour guide
The number of visitors to the Holy Land has increased significantly over the recent years. Thanks to social media for promoting all the amazing sites in the country and the internet has made all the relevant information available for tourists.
There are many unique and lesser-known places to visit in the West Bank, however, such places are either hard to reach or not available for many tourists on a regular tour. As a tour guide that specializes in individual, family and small group tours, it has been my pleasure to show my clients to these unique sites. I would like to introduce these unique sites on my website in the coming months. From time to time, I have clients asked me to organize custom tours to visit these unique sites. A more thorough and careful plan is required than other regular sightseeing tours if you decide to go by yourself.
There are 3 options available for the travellers, Servis (means shared taxis), private taxis and rental cars in the West Bank.
Unlike many other cities that run by a public train and bus system, the West Bank is served by a unique yet efficient and easy to use transport network called Servis. Servis is usually a European passenger van with yellow color, it runs from towns/villages to the major city center or runs between major cities. Servis is the most affordable option for the travellers, however, the van does not leave until after every seat is filled. Expect a long wait if you are going to place Jericho by servis that departs from Bethlehem or Ramallah as it is not a place where local Palestinians usually visit by public transport system.
Booking a private taxi is the easiest way to travel around but it can be costly at the same time, let alone negotiate the fare with the taxi driver in advance. This can be tricky for many tourists as the private taxis in the West Bank do not adopt a meter system like many other places do, therefore it is necessary to confirm the fair prior to the departure.
The third option for tourists to travel around in the West Bank is to hire a rental car. Due to the complicated road conditions and unforeseeable circumstances, which generally means higher risks for both tourists and the rental car, it is generally not recommended for tourists to take this option.
It is essential to plan ahead and be prepared for delays due to the traffic, military checkpoints and finding places to park. In addition, internet connection and road assistance apps often experience problems to function properly in parts of Palestine as well as some of the lesser-known sites in the region.
Starting Early is Always Better
During the winter, when dusk and colder night-time weather comes early in hilly cities such as Bethlehem and Nablus, it becomes important to get an early morning start, especially if you are interested in taking good pictures with sunlight. Likewise, moving around in the middle of the day during the intense summer heat can be a physically exhausting, and even risky, experience.
Travelling During Ramadan
There are also periods of the year, such as during Ramadan, the Muslim period of daytime fasting and evening communal dinners known as Iftars, and during the Jewish high holy days and Israeli national holidays, where travel can become even more difficult but still possible.
Visits and Opening Hours
Another major issue is knowing when to visit the lesser-known sites. Many cultural, historic and religious sites have limited accessibility and visiting hours that can also change unannounced. In some cases, such as churches or handicraft centers, the caretakers are not available during the daytime unless advance notice is given. Moving from location to location to make the most of the day can quickly become a major frustration if a lone traveler has to double-back due to a long lunch hour or a request to come back in the late afternoon after the caretaker of a site comes back from their regular work or visiting someone in another village an hour away!
Be Always Prepared
Last but not least, be prepared. Have your phone charged, Israeli currency in a variety of denominational bills, and always, always have your passport and travel visa issued at Ben Gurion Airport or Allenby Bridge with you, everywhere you go. In general, if someone is staying in Bethlehem and wishes to visit Nablus, I recommend an overnight stay “in the north” as we locals say, at the very least to not only take advantage of all there is to offer in places such as Sebastiya, Burqin, Taybeh and more, but also give yourself plenty of time to move from place to place and take into account the unexpected that may upset your timetable of visits. So in closing, is it possible to travel the West Bank solo? Yes, it is, but you must plan ahead, and it’s always better to plan with a local guide. Contact me at the email below if you have any further questions….and good luck! Michael Jackaman offers custom tours, hikes and experiential visits across the West Bank, including such destinations as Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron and many other locations in the Holy Land. Contact us to book your tour!